Kings Can’t Slow Suns Despite Gay’s Impressive Debut

Dec 13, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It appears the Sacramento Kings have kicked aside the boring brand of basketball that has plagued them for years. Unfortunately, they have work to do to rid themselves of the losing. In the much anticipated debut of Rudy Gay, the Kings and Phoenix Suns played a fast-paced, entertaining first half full of offense. The winner would be the first team that decided to actually play defense, and that team was the Suns. Phoenix tightened the screws defensively and hustled past the Kings for a 116-107 victory.

GAY TAKES THE COURT – Rudy Gay (36 MIN, 24 PTS, 8-12 FG, 0-3 3FG, 8-9 FT, 1 REB, 1 AST, 2 BLK, 1 STL, 2 TO) finally took the floor for the Kings on Friday. All Kings fans have been hearing since the trade was that Gay is an inefficient chucker, but in this one, the Kings new starting small forward started the game quite timid as he sought to find a comfort zone. He floated aimlessly for much of the first quarter, but after getting a few turnaround jumpers to fall out of the post, Gay seemed to settle in. He was clearly more passive than you’d expect, but his terrific scoring ability was on full display. Gay glided through the lane for some gorgeous finger rolls (using both hands) and drilled some pull-up jumpers from midrange. There was no overshooting, no forces. Gay seemed content to defer to his teammates. He made a great first impression and did it relatively quietly. Things should only get better as he learns about his new teammates and offense. Over time, Gay will recognize when he can assert himself and perhaps the next time Sacramento is struggling for offense down the stretch, Rudy can be the one to provide it.

NEWCOMER GRAY SURPRISES – Gay was obviously the centerpiece to the trade, and Quincy Acy got some recognition as an intriguing throw-in. But nobody was talking about seven-footer Aaron Gray. After Friday, the acquisition of Gray (13 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-6 FG, 9 REB, 6 O-REB) looks like it could actually pay dividends. Gray was a surprise standout against the Suns. As the backup to DeMarcus Cousins, Gray stepped in and asserted himself on both ends. Offensively, Gray was constantly moving, setting hard screens on the perimeter, rolling to the basket and establishing position for offensive boards. Defensively, the big man displayed his agility by showing well on screens and rotating effectively down low. All in all, Gray’s nimble feet were a surprise, and he clearly has a good idea of his own skill set and what he brings to a team. He should make a fine reserve going forward.

Dec 13, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe drives to the basket in the second half against the Sacramento Kings at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Kings 116-107. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX BACKCOURT DOMINATES – The athletic backcourt pairing of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe was a nightmare for the Kings to defend. Sacramento lucked out by missing Bledsoe in the teams’ previous meetings, but Friday, the Suns guard joined Dragic to slice up the Kings defense. Both players alternated ball-handling duties, and Sacramento just could not stay in front of either player. Isaiah Thomas (42 MIN, 29 PTS, 11-20 FG, 3-6 3FG, 4-4 FT, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO) rose to the challenge and was a scoring dynamo in the first half. But the Kings got absolutely nothing from the shooting guard spot — Ben McLemore (27 MIN, 1-6 FG) and Marcus Thornton (21 MIN, 1-7 FG) combined to shoot 2-of-13 from the floor.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS – DeMarcus Cousins (34 MIN, 15 PTS, 5-16 FG, 16 REB, 5 AST, 5 STL, 1 BLK, 3 TO) worked hard but the Suns defense seemed to frustrate him. He played a solid first half, but never got fully comfortable down low after halftime. Credit to Miles Plumlee and the Suns defensive strategy … Derrick Williams (30 MIN, 14 PTS, 4-10 FG, 2-3 3FG, 4-4 FT, 4 REB) came off the bench and played a very solid game. He showed his scoring ability, making strong, athletic moves to the rim while also popping out for some perimeter success. He led the team with a +20 plus/minus rating. As expected, D-Will was still called upon for crunch time minutes … Not much to like about Jason Thompson’s performance. He no doubt gets called for many ticky-tack fouls, but he lets those calls completely take him out of the game. He mustered zero rebounds, five fouls and a horrendous -25 plus/minus rating in 14 minutes … Jimmer Fredette (6 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-2 FG, 1 STL, 1 TO) again got the call for first half backup point guard minutes. But because of his ineffectiveness, Isaiah played the entire second half … Phoenix hit a scorching 12-of-24 shots from three-point range.

Topics: Sacramento Kings

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  • IDK02

    I thought we were changing the culture, where was the ball movement? Isaiah shot the ball 20 times, I thought he was a point guard. We don’t have to worry about Rudy chucking when we have Isaiah. Why does Isaiah need to show up new teammates and other point guards? Derrick had to get a rebound so he can shoot the ball, Isaiah rarely passed to anyone. Rudy played well. Derrick and Aaron played great, they knows their roles. Can we send JT back to planet Whine? Cousins was absent during the game and he is getting close to having a full meltdown. Ben needs to come off the bench, now that we have starters.

    • Scott Levin

      Respect your opinion and always appreciate the comments, but let’s give it a little more time before we give up hope.

      First off on Isaiah, we were down 13-2 after 4 minutes. He scored 13 points the rest of the quarter and we took the lead. If he has the stroke, why should he give it up? Especially considering his scorers were awful — McLemore 1-6, Thornton 1-7, Cousins 5-16. The assists have been there since he moved into the starting lineup — 12 against Dallas, 7 against Utah. Isaiah is 12th in usage % (simply, uses many possessions) yet he’s 15th in assist % and 10th in PER (efficiency). The nine players deemed more efficient: LeBron-A.Davis-Durant-B.Lopez-Love-CP3-Cousins-Aldridge-Curry. Not bad company.

      The offense will only get better as Rudy learns where to fit in. As I said in the report, he was very timid early on and hardly made a cut off the ball to free himself.

      The problem was and will be the defense. We’ve got the scorers to hang with most teams. But you can’t win giving up 116 points.

      • IDK02

        Thanks Scott

  • IDK02

    Kings have more moves up their sleeves (sources say they are on the market for a pass-first point guard), they aren’t making the playoffs and still may end up with a pretty high draft position. While that’s certainly not what owner Vivek Ranadive envisioned when he agreed to take on Gay’s huge deal, he might get what the Kings need despite his efforts to win now. Chad Ford